16 March 2023

Musical life of the 'Australian Queen of Irish Song' set to hit the stage

| Shri Gayathirie Rajen
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Coralie McKenzie

Coralie McKenzie, the writer of the upcoming musical A Coo-ee To Marie. Photo: Jackie Cooper.

The journey celebrating the life of the famous Australia singer Marie Narelle will come alive on stage through a musical with a touch of history.

A Coo-ee to Marie will hit the stage in Temora at the Bundawarrah Centre, telling the story of the ‘Australian Queen of Irish Song’, Marie Narelle (Catherine Mary Ryan), from 1870 in Combaning, Temora to 1941 in Chipping Norton, UK and home again.

The free event will feature local performers, musicians and artists, and interstate and international partners who together will present a unique family event.

The play has an extended cast and crew of 50 people and audiences can expect to see and hear animated video stories, singalongs, Irish classics, dance, rare puppetry techniques, plenty of Aussie humour and a few surprises along the way.

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A Coo-ee to Marie writer and director Coralie McKenzie spent around six months scribbling notes, writing phrases and storyboarding for the play.

“There was an enormous amount of research, including Bill Speir’s soon-to-be-released biography,” Coralie said.

“The word count was enormous, it started to feel cumbersome – her story is vast. I called in a friend, the creative part of me wanted to say so much, but I felt too much dialogue would lose the story.

“Recognising that I didn’t want the play to feel like me, rather Marie, I took a step back, assembled sections and called on Alison Mortimer. We worked together, reducing my thousands of words into simple prose, combining it with dialogue – its only purpose, to share a snapshot of her story, bring joy to people, and inspire others to share their stories,” she said.

Coralie said the audience could expect to see local talent shine, be moved by imagery, and feel the emotion of the music and song as they travel with Marie Narelle on her life journey.

Banner for A Coo-ee to Marie

Coralie oversaw the entire production of the regional, national, and international collaboration from conception. Photo: Supplied.

“(The audience can) be engaged with the performance in all its media formats, laughing alongside our cast. A Coo-ee to Marie is a magical musical collage made with love,” she said.

Coralie said she began her journey into the creative world of writing by writing poetry and songs a few years ago and her writing “seemed to come from nowhere”.

She later discovered she hails from a family of poets.

“My mother presented me with several pieces family members had written, including short stories and poems related to family history.

“Studying animation and producing short films gave me foundation tools; I’d also directed dance performance and choreographed group routines, but it was stepping back on the stage, some brilliant mentors, and Marie Narelle’s story that led me to pick up a pen!”

Raised in Carlton Victoria, Coralie spent a great deal of time as a child around creatives, performers, photographers, artists, galleries, and museums, embracing a multicultural environment.

Projected image on large screen

Final rehearsals for the upcoming play. Photo: Supplied.

She performed from an early age, including in musical theatre written by a local youth group leader. Coralie also performed and toured in regional Victoria as part of a theatre group and was a regular Moomba participant.

She also joined a country dance group and performed weekly at Southbank, in promotional performances at various venues and locations, and competed in local and interstate competitions.

After moving to the Riverina, Coralie pursued other passions including food history and historical research. With the ambition of sharing stories, she studied live performance, animation, special effects and art history at Charles Sturt University

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The Temora Historical Society has received significant funding as part of the Reconnecting Regional NSW Community Events Program for this event.

“We thank the Department for Regional NSW and Eastern Riverina Arts, CASP (Country Arts Supports Program), for their funding and support along with our sponsors,” Coralie said.

A Coo-ee To Marie will be on at the Bundawarra Centre in Temora on Saturday 25 February and Sunday 26 Februrary. For more information, click here.

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